couple in a tesla

Your Guide to the Tesla Trade In Program

Tesla cars are expensive. The Model X, a luxury SUV crossover, is the most expensive at $106,440 and the Model 3, which is an alternative to the Ford Mustang Mach E, is the most affordable at $46,440. Although plenty of other automakers now develop and produce electric vehicles, Tesla still stands as the sough-after brand in battery-powered cars.

If the entry price of Model 3 is still a dream, how can you get your hands on a Tesla?

Maybe you can suss out the feasibility of a trade.

Does Tesla Take Trade Ins?

empty tesla car
Photo by Bram Van Oost on Unsplash

Yes, Tesla does take in trades of non Tesla vehicles; they even take gas-powered cars.

But much like most trade-in programs, a Tesla trade in isn’t as straightforward as driving into any dealership with any car model. Only certain vehicles are allowed.

Motorcycles, commercial vehicles, RVs and non-drivable vehicles are not accepted at Tesla’s trade-in program.

Acceptable Trade ins at Tesla:

  • SUVs
  • Trucks
  • Passenger cars
  • Vans
  • Vehicles with internal combustion engine
  • Other electric vehicles

So how does this trade in work?

Once you figure out your vehicle passes the initial screening (i.e., your vehicle is an acceptable trade), you place an order with the EV automaker. Then, you’re assigned a VIN. What’s a VIN?

A VIN is a code unique to your vehicle, ensuring Tesla that you are the verified owner of the vehicle. Tesla uses this unique code to also determine where a vehicle was manufactured, the type of motor it has and its make.

When you need to make inquiries or follow up on your Tesla trade in, the VIN makes it easy to process your request.

After receiving your VIN, enter the following details:

  • VIN
  • Mileage
  • Photo of your vehicle to trade
  • Zip Code

Other pertinent details apply. Once you’ve furnished Tesla the necessary information, your trade in goes through processing. The offer begins with an evaluation of your vehicle. The automaker uses market conditions, the history of your vehicle and other factors to come up with a trade in value of your vehicle.

Does Tesla Give a Good Trade-in Value?

As with any kind of consumer experience, two schools of thought exist for Tesla trade ins:

  • Yes, the automaker offers fair trades using objective criteria
  • No, the automaker lowballs every trade

Reddit and Quora users exchange anecdotes about their trade in experience with Tesla; most fall on not-so good valuation. Those who share receiving low offers on their trade in vehicles ended up using CarMax offers instead; one person gave his Prius to charity after getting an offer of $2,100 from Tesla.

Some of those who applied for trade in said their vehicles were never inspected. No inspection could lead to: a) under valuation of a used car in good condition, or b) over valuation of a used car that has some red flags. Either way, trade in offers from Tesla reportedly are not up for negotiation.

Because the EV automaker has marketed its trade in program as easy as possible, negotiating the trade in price of your vehicle seems unnecessary. Most automakers providing trade ins also do not negotiate their offers.

What if you happen to have two vehicles and want to drive a Tesla? Can those two vehicles be traded in for one super speedy EV from the automaker?

No, you can’t trade in more than one vehicle at Tesla.

If you plan on trading in your current SUV or car for a Model 3 or any Tesla model, pump the breaks on aftermarket modifications. Any changes made to your vehicle, from new exhaust to pimped up interiors, will have a negative impact on the trade in valuation, so Tesla suggests keeping your car in its original look.

If you’re hell bent on getting your hands on a Tesla, trading in your old vehicle for one may help you pay for a new or used EV from the carmaker. But if you’re OK to check other electric vehicles from other manufacturers, keep your trade in options open.

Before sending in your trade in application to Tesla, shop around for other offers. CarMax is one other source, Carvana is another; some automakers also have their trade in programs.

But your desire to possess a Tesla vehicle through trade in could be motivated by more than driving “a thing of beauty.”

Does a Tesla Car Hold Its Value?

black tesla car
Every vehicle depreciates the moment you drive it out of the lot. But a Tesla holds its value better than most passenger cars. Photo by Mr. Borys on Pexels

According to Tesla’s Resale Value Guarantee, your EV’s resale value is equal to 50 percent of the original sticker price at the time you bought it. You can resell your vehicle after three years, and even get 43 percent of the original price for a battery pack upgrade and other options. This rate is exclusive of taxes and applicable fees.

Yes, all vehicles lose a percentage of their value once driven out of the car lot. But the depreciation of a Tesla may not be the same as any average vehicle.

According to a CarEdge study, a Tesla Model 3 has the highest residual value of any passenger vehicle. CarEdge is an independent company that helps U.S. consumers make those purchasing decisions. The most affordable model in Tesla’s line up retains 62 percent of its value after three years. It has one of the best resale values comparable to pickup trucks.

So if you’re not just after the sleek look of a Tesla car but also its premium value — even after a few years of driving it, the best trade in maybe the Model 3. Or if you already have the cash to burn, the Model 3 is the ideal Tesla to buy.

If all else fails, and you still can’t seem to own a Tesla, lease one.

Can You Lease a Tesla?

man sitting in his car
Can’t afford to buy a Tesla? The automaker offers leasing with financing in certain states. Photo by Screen Post on Pexels

A lease is an easy way to drive luxury vehicles; Tesla’s no exception. Tesla offers leasing with affordable payments, but it’s only available in certain states. Check the automaker’s website to see if you’re living in one where lease financing is doable.

How do you start a Tesla lease?

  1. An application begins with designing your Tesla
  2. Under payment method, choose “Lease” to order your Tesla
  3. Sign in to your Tesla account to review details of your lease term, amount due and the like

Terms will vary in different states. For example, customers from Michigan and Texas will need to pay final payment before the delivery appointment.

Once you’ve confirmed your lease, Tesla starts the review process of your application. Credit approval may take anywhere from a few minutes after your application to a couple days. If approved, you’ll be informed of the delivery details. If denied, a Tesla team member will be in touch to let you know.

What Does Tesla Do With Trade-in Vehicles?

woman showing the man a tesla
When you trade in your car for a Tesla, what happens to it? Photo by Screen Post on Pexels

Every vehicle that’s traded in finds a new lease on life. Tesla reportedly sends those qualified vehicles, from gas to electric, for trade in to a car auction. These vehicles typically get sent to other companies, from CarMax to AutoNation because the car manufacturer rarely resells the traded in vehicle themselves.

If you’ve traded an old Tesla with a new Tesla, that car will then be resold by the automaker. Naturally, these cars are taken back to the market at a loss.

A Tesla parked in your driveway does not have to be a dream. You can trade in your vehicle for a Model 3 or lease one through the automaker. Either way, you could be driving a speedy EV today without burning too much cash.

The Author

Scroll to Top